It will take far beyond June for everything to “return to normal”, warns a local development economist – but that gives the environment a breather.
Vaine Wichman says the world is rebooting itself from the coronavirus crisis and it will take time to recover.
She was responding to regional economists forecasting the Covid-19 crisis will cost the Cook Islands economy $775 million, mostly in tourism dollars.
Wichman said companies, communities and families would weather the economic uncertainty, despite their income taking a nose dive. They would tighten their belts, and rely on government handouts to tide them over.
“The symbolic Covid-19 ‘curve’, and getting over it is not the main hurdle. The main hurdle is rebooting our lives and businesses in a changed environment,” she said.
Wichman said the downturn brought small benefits, like swimming in amazingly clean lagoons. “The earth is breathing again.”
Tourist numbers would never recover to last year’s levels: “Visitor interests will shift to becoming health safe and environment conscious.”
Covid-19 would remain with people, like malaria and dengue, but it would be more deadly if not treated carefully. Border control would “become serious and permanent”, she added.
“Most businesses will shift to online provision of goods and services. Families will realise that they are the basic building block of this recovery.
“Unfortunately Cook Islands families and networks are not how they used to be and this is the underlying reason the government package may continue and intensify into 2021.
“The health bubbles of Rarotonga, South and Northern Cooks are sub-economies to watch out for, in terms of the real value of non-valued assets the country owns.”